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A tribute to Yankees who made TV cameo appearances

A number of players have guest-starred on popular shows and sitcoms over the years. Here are a few classics.

Seinfeld Photo by Barry Slobin/NBCU Photo Bank/NBCUniversal via Getty Images via Getty Images

After the bottom of the seventh inning during Tuesday night’s game against the Blue Jays, the YES Network broadcast crew started reminiscing about Paul O’ Neill’s hair. Not the curly mullet O’ Neill sported during his years on Reds, but the voluminous curls of Paulie’s Yankee years. Paulie’s hair looks just like Kramer’s, Michael Kay and David Cone joked, referencing the wacky character played by Michael Richards on Seinfeld.

The comparison caught my attention. This isn’t the first time O’Neill has been linked to Kramer, as fans of Seinfeld surely know. O’Neill played himself on an episode of Seinfeld in 1993 and his cameo is considered by many to be the best out of the dozen or so episodes which feature players on the Yankees.

A number of Yankees have guest-starred on popular TV shows and sitcoms over the years. These cameos interest me because they do more than offer Yankee fans an opportunity to indulge their nostalgia. The Yankees’ cameos also serve as a historical record, preserving a player’s public persona as it was at a distinct moment in time.

Today Yankee fans see Paul O’ Neill, the affable broadcaster chuckling in his basement. But thanks to his role in this 1995 episode of Seinfeld, we can remember Paul O’ Neill, the absurdly intense competitor, as he was then, without our memory of The Warrior being clouded by time.

In the 1995 episode “The Wink,” Kramer tries to persuade a sick kid in the hospital to hand over a birthday card which George Costanza had intended to give to Yankees owner George Steinbrenner. In return, Kramer promises the boy that O’Neill will hit two home runs during the game that evening (O’Neill ends up hitting just one home run; a second would-be homer is scored as a triple with a one-base error).

Jim Abbott guest-stars in a 1993 episode of Boy Meets World called “Class Preunion.” I had seen the episode a handful of times, but I still gained new insight into Abbott’s cameo upon watching it again while writing this.

In “Class Preunion,” Cory dreams about playing the big leagues, but Mr. Feeny discourages Cory’s aspirations. Abbott arrives at the Matthews’ house to advise Cory not to listen to others’ opinions of what he can or cannot achieve in the future.

In revisiting this episode, I caught Cory’s reference to bunting (during Abbott’s pitching career batters often bunted on Abbott in an attempt to exploit his fielding disadvantage of having only one hand). I also enjoyed learning from that, initially, Abbott thought he was visiting the Boy Meets World set to talk to the kids—not to act alongside them. The very outdated reference to telegrams amused me as well (did people still send those in 1993?).

Wade Boggs was still on the Red Sox and not yet a Yankee when he guest-starred on an episode of Cheers in 1998. In this scene, Cheers patrons assume Wade Boggs is an imposter and the bar patrons proceed to steal his pants.

Danny Tartabull, who played on the Yankees from 1992-1995, guest-starred in two episodes of Seinfeld: “The Chaperone” and “The Pledge Drive.” In “The Chaperone,” George is in the Yankee locker room and observes that Danny Tartabull looks very sweaty. George then suggests Tartabull and this teammates swap their polyester uniforms for cotton uniforms, which are more breathable than polyester. George’s plan backfires; the cotton uniforms shrink, causing Don Mattingly to split his pants during a game.

Though Mattingly doesn’t actually appear on screen, viewers are told that Mattingly’s pants are split because Bob Sheppard announces it. Buck Showalter also plays himself in the episode.

There are so many Yankee cameos worth watching. “The Abstinence,” an episode of Seinfeld from 1996, features Bernie Williams and a young Derek Jeter. After George offers hitting advice to both guys, they share the following exchange:

Jeter: Now who are you again?

George: George Costanza, assistant to the traveling secretary.

Williams: Are you the guy who put us in that Ramada in Milwaukee?

George: Do you wanna talk about hotels, or do you wanna win some ball games?

Jeter: We won the World Series.

George: In six games.

Want to watch more? I also recommend these episodes guest-starring Yankees:

  • In “Perfect Week,” a 2017 episode of How I Met Your Mother, Nick Swisher hangs out at the bar with the gang and dispels the notion that a New York Yankee can get any woman he wants. In a separate exchange with Robin later on, Swish assures her that it is not weird for Marshall and Lily to share a toothbrush.
  • A 2011 episode of Entourage features A-Rod and Mark Teixeira, who make an investment with Turtle in an Los Angeles restaurant.
  • Reggie Jackson saves the day at Yankee Stadium after George drops a home run ball in “The Unnatural,” an episode of The Jeffersons from 1985.